COLUMN: National interest must trump opposition

A few hours after this column meets deadline, the federal government will give the go-ahead to Northern Gateway ...

COLUMN: National interest must trump opposition

A few hours after this column meets deadline, the federal government will give the go-ahead to Northern Gateway and construction of the pipeline to ship Alberta crude to B.C.’s coast.

How can I be certain of approval? Denial of the project would repudiate all that the Conservative Party of Canada stands for: a strong economy, business and financial security for the nation.

Of course, the “Not In Anyone’s Back Yard”  opposition will immediately launch every court and political action possible to delay or halt it. The hue and cry will be to leave the oil in the ground, protecting the environment and the air we breathe.

All noble and in a way justifiable arguments. However, by following world news, it is blatantly obvious that one of the main sources (Iraq) of the oil we require to keep the economy moving is about to dry up, or at least be cut off.

To abandon the tar sands will mean Canada’s self-sufficiency in oil, to say nothing of becoming a significant revenue-producing exporter, will eventually disappear. That means as an importer, we are subject to the whims and high prices of the world market. Virtually everything we consume requires oil: fertilizer for food production, gasoline and diesel for transport, products we use and consume, clothing, home construction materials … the list is endless.

And the national and provincial revenues derived from oil-based royalties provide the funding for health care, pensions, welfare, education – you name it.

Not only is oil production vital to our national well-being, Canada is a world-wide welcomed producer because we have what few other oil-producing nations have – a stable government supported by a stable population.

Almost 80 per cent of the world’s oil supply is controlled by state-owned governments or national oil companies. Of the remaining 20 per cent or so accessible to the world, more than half of it rests beneath northern Alberta.

In a perfect world, it would remain there. But the world relies on production, growth and prosperity, and today and into the foreseeable future, that production requires energy to create it – energy based on oil.

Not only is extraction, sale and export of Alberta tar sands of Canada’s national interest, it is in the global interest. And that is why our federal government will have said “yes” on Tuesday afternoon, despite the expectedly raucous hue and cry along with vehement protests from First Nations tribal councils.

But come what may, resolutions will be found, accommodations made and in the not too distant future, the pipeline will be laid, oil will flow and revenues that support our current way of life will occur.

Certainly there needs to be the best possible environmental protections in place, and certainly the pipeline route needs to be redirected to Prince Rupert rather than the island-choked channel that ends in Kitimat.

Yet, while the routing of Northern Gateway’s pipeline is mainly a northern issue, opposition to Kinder Morgan’s proposed route is mainly one of the urban Lower Mainland. I can understand that. The original line was built in the 1950s, and residential and commercial growth has been allowed to butt up against the right-of-way, making expansion difficult if not virtually impossible from Abbotsford through to the terminus in Burnaby.

Why, I wonder, has not someone considered that rather than twin the existing route, Kinder Morgan use the very wide BC Hydro transmission line right-of-way for its second pipeline. It would be more than adequate, roughly follows the same routing, would not disrupt housing (at least for most of its way through the Lower Mainland) and, in Abbotsford, is immediately adjacent to the Sumas Prairie pumping station.

If that’s not workable, then KM could reroute its line to cross the border at Sumas, and pump to the existing oil tanker ports adjacent to Cherry Point. B.C. would lose revenue and permanent jobs, but at least the local opponents could feel morally superior.